Tuesday, 31 December 2013

URUK HAI / LOUSBERG split CD

Band: URUK HAI
Title: Uruk Hai / Lousberg split
Format: Professionally released CD-r in pro-printed covers by Depressive Illusions (Ukraine), catalogue reference cut 1249, released in 2013 in DVD sized case.  This is a split release between Austria's Uruk Hai and Lousberg (Germany).  There are three package options advertised on the Depressive Illusions web-site to purchase this item with Uruk Hai logo patches, although there is but one version of the CD available. The full details are below.
Edition: 33 copies

Track Listing:
Uruk Hai
01. Elbenland  1.38 
02. Auenland  5.04
03. Before The Battle  6.26 
04. Elbenmacht  15.43
Lousberg
05. Wurmtal  4.11
06. Auf Dem Land  10.09 
07. Aachener Wald  6.52
08. Reinland  15.27

I don't know about you but there are certain words or phrase that I cannot read without inadvertently misreading them, if you follow me.  A classic example is 'breaded fish', which invariably - and somewhat bizarrely - I will always read as 'bearded fish'.  Another is 'shopfitters', which in Nazgul's clearly suspicious mind becomes 'shoplifters' every time I see it.  This phenomenon is not unique to Nazgul, fortunately, and is generally known as 'word blindness'.  And it all becomes quite pertinent with this release, as for years Nazgul has read the name of the other band on this split release as 'Louisberg' (with an i) and not plain old Lousberg.  As a result, in his mind's eye, Nazgul was certain that there going to be connections to the same-named North Carolina town, the American Civil War, and all matters military.

But not a bit of it, in fact.  Lousberg is a place near Aachen, in Germany.  Not a Confederate flag or musket to be seen.  There is a military connection though: Standing on a hill near the centre of the German city of Aachen the massive Lousberg Bunker served as the Wehrmacht command centre as Nazi troops fought a desperate, but ultimately futile, battle in September and October 1944 to stop Aachen becoming the first German city to fall to Allied troops in the west.  However, the Lousberg itself pre-dates this and was designed as a park in Napoleonic times, and dominates the whole of the town. Nazgul is assured that from several vantage points you have outstanding views of the city and beyond that to frontiers with Belgium and Holland.

According to legend (which is far more interesting than Napoleonic gardening design) the Lousberg was created by Satan himself as an act of revenge on the city of Aachen. The Devil had been tricked by the people of Aachen once before, in a complicated matter involving the Cathedral doors, a wolf, the Devil's thumb and a door knocker.  Clearly just another Friday night out in Aachen, then.  However, the Devil was so enraged about this embarrassment that he intended to cover the city and the Cathedral with a mountain of sand, and for this purpose he got a large bag of sand from the beach. On his way back to the city, he was labouring under the heavy load when he met a farmer's wife with badly worn shoes and asked her the way back to Aachen. 

The farmer's wife recognized him ("damn these horns, if only I'd worn a hat!") and told him that she was just coming from Aachen. She said that she had bought her new shoes in Aachen and now they were already totally worn – this was how far it was back to the town.  Hearing this news, the Devil dropped the sand sack, angry and exhausted. The spot where the Devil dropped the sack is the site of the Lousberg.

It's not the first time that Lousberg have come to the attention of Honour and Darkness.  The band were supposed to have been on the other side of a split release with Hrefnesholt about 4 or 5 years ago - the split tape "Unruahnocht / Lousberg" - which never actually came to fruition.  Since then nothing had been heard from the band, at least in context of any of Hugin's releases, so this split release with Uruk Hai came as rather a pleasant surprise.

And this was the first time that Nazgul had really had a chance to listen to Lousberg's music in any depth, and it has to be said that it has proven to be a rewarding experience.  If you've not yet purchased this CD then you can check out a bespoke medley on YouTube of this very release for yourself.  Nazgul's overriding impression of the dark ambient nature of the band is that it is is eminently listenable, throwing in animal sounds with some dark and disconsolate keyboards, making for a somewhat cheerless atmosphere.  And this is a good thing in dark ambient terms, as the overall effect is one of foreboding and melancholy.

There's precious little online about Lousberg other than their own Facebook page, but the project (led by JanuZ) espouses "Music for searching hearts, never mind if black or bright. Dedicated to the mighty spirit of nature, of times which were and times which come!"

For Uruk Hai fans, I suppose a reasonable starting point is to ask which version of the band turned up on this release - the 'new direction' pseudo power-metal band, or the 'old school' battle ambient project?  Well, the answer to that is very much in the latter category, with so many nods back to the "A Night In The Forest" period of classic Uruk Hai that you'll bang your head against a tree before you can say "mind that Ent!"  The overall composition of the songs is keyboard based, and range from the short introduction of 'Elbenland' to more lengthy songs like 'Elbenmacht'.

The lead-off track is a short introduction, pleasant and over all too quickly.  This is followed by 'Auenland' (which Nazgul believes translates to Shire, as in the home of the Hobbits, those furry-footed little bastards) which is the stand-out track on the Uruk Hai side of this album.  It's driven by a keyboard melody that brings to mind the breathing of an animal, or the washing of the tide up and down a shingle beach.  On top of this comes a piano refrain, sounding rather like the sort of thing that Moby was doing on his 'Porcelain' single.  And this is no bad thing, actually, as it gives the track a restful and effortless quality that represents the Shire well.  The only criticism is that it goes on for quite some time without any other variation, but to have it playing in the background is still a splendid experience.

Third song 'Before The Battle' succeeds in its quest of creating an atmosphere of trepidation and unease mingled with heroic surges and epic aspirations!  One can almost picture oneself on the battle line, jagged scimitar in one sweaty claw and your company's one-eyed banner snapping proudly on your back, ready to rush the Elvish scum and thrust your steel where the sun doesn't shine.  Aaah, the halcyon days of Elf-splitting.  Happy times.  Closing track 'Elbenmacht' is the least memorable track on the Uruk Hai half of the piece, but creates a sonic canvass for the listener to paint his or her own picture on in the pursuit of Middle-Earth fantasies.
 
There are three different purchase options for this release on the Depressive Illusions website. Option 1 sees you able to pick up just the CD itself for the modest sum of €6.66.  Option 2 adds in a woven Uruk Hai patch and will set you back €11.66, whilst Option 3 sees two different style woven patches together with the CD for €16.66.  As ever, you pays your money and takes your choice!  One patch is of the old band logo and the other the new, and Nazgul would imagine the ever-accommodating Sergiy at Depressive Illusions would be flexible about which one you bought if you go down the route of Option 2.

Reserving the right to be slightly odd about the way he organizes his posts, Nazgul will feature the two patches in an update to this post as they are worth a closer look!

Overall, Nazgul gives this release a solid two thumbs up: one more than poor old Beelzebub, whose thumb allegedly resides inside the lion-shaped door knocker of Aachen cathedral for reasons far too convoluted to get into here...!  Well worth paying a visit to the Depressive Illusions site to get your own copy whilst they still have a few.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

ATLANTIDA VOLUME 9 [V/A]


Band: HROSSHARSGRANI 
Title: Atlantida Volume 9 [V/A]
Format: A CDr compilation in the Atlantida series of releases, released by Atlantida Productions (year unknown), masterminded by the late Ruslanas Danisevskis (Ravenclaw).  Pro-printed black and white covers, with a plain silver disc, no other catalogue details.
Edition: Unknown

Track Listing:
01. Skyfire  *  The Universe Unveils
02. Nomicon  *  A Search
03. Mahavatar  *  The E Song
04. Moonsorrow  *  Ukkosenjumalan Polka
05. Aiumeen Basoa  *  Aiumeen Basoa (Arlekma)
06. Obsidian  *  Shores Of Disillusion
07. Die Apokalyptischen Reiter  *  Unter Der Asche
08. Thyrfing  *  The Slumber Of Yesteryears
09. Throneum  *  Reborn To The Stars
10. Darkfall  *  Firebreed
11. Znich  *  Black Znich
12. Immemoreal  *  My Will Power
13. Rossomahaar  *  Mist Of Eternity
14. Magellan Dream  *  Tara
15. Hrossharsgrani  *  Fimbulwinter  4.20
16. Adhur  *  Akelarreko Batzarra
17. Lux Divina  *  Forest Hymn...
18. Phackner  *  Speed Of Metal

When Honour and Darkness paid tribute to the recently deceased Ruslanas Danisevkis earlier this year, Nazgul mentioned that he had the complete run of Atlantida compilation releases tucked away on tape and CD-r within the Castle library.  This very scarce collection of material was kindly made available to the Castle collection by the esteemed Alexander Wieser, whose name you may occasionally have heard mentioned on these pages....


The Atlantida series a whole contains a multitude of material, predominantly in the black/viking/gothic metal genres, and Volume 9 is fairly typical of it in terms of its content:  A miscellany of demo tracks, songs from official releases, and the odd unreleased track just for this compilation.  Some of the bands you've probably never heard of and doubtless may not again, others are rather more well-known in their respective fields: Thyfing, Lux Divina, Moonsorrow and Rossomahaar being instantly familiar to Nazgul.  

Being that Ruslanas was one half of Ravenclaw with Hugin, the presence of Hugin's bands (and indeed Ravenclaw themselves) across a number of these compilations is not surprising, and offers another rich vein of material for coverage on this Blog.  And the odd surprise has arisen from Nazgul's perusal of the Atlantida discography, of which he will share more at a future juncture....!

But let's not get ahead of ourselves, and return now to Volume 9.  The point of interest here is the inclusion of a version of 'Fimbulwinter' by Hrossharsgrani, a song that has graced more than a few demos from that band ("From The Dark Ages" and "Ancient Tales" being but two) as well as being released in a unique credit-card style format as a special gift to Nazgul.  Depending on the version the song varies in length, but maintains a Viking-esque simplicity that belies the craft of our man on the keyboards.  Its an early recording, one that the rear inlay of this CD denotes as an "unreleased track" just for this compilation, so the likelihood of it being an early variant of the piece is high.

More from the Atlantida series in future posts! 

Thursday, 12 December 2013

BFW CHRISTMAS ALBUM 2013 [V/A]


Name: ALEXANDER WIESER
Title: The BFW Christmas Album 2013 [V/A]
Release date: 16 December 2013
Reason for inclusion: Festive frolics and miscellaneous music, featuring a collaborative track between When We Live and Hugin!
Edition: Unlimited internet download

Track Listing:
01.  When We Live (featuring Alexander Wieser)  *  Frozen In Time  02:18
02.  The Amygdala  *  Zephyrus
03.  Perceptual Defence & Uzbazur345  *  Waiting for Christmas Magic Atmosphere
04.  Scott Lawlor  *  Drone for Christmas
05.  Mystified  *  Lasting Through The Season
06.  Cousin Silas  *  New Light On The Hill
07.  Ars Sonor  *  Future Journeys
08.  Playman54  *  Solar Beltower's signal (end of cycle)
09.  Meteer  *  Gran Insel Stigmata
10.  Elizabeth Veldon  *  The Holly and the Ivy  
11.  Jon Johnson  *  As Dry Leaves That Before The Wild Hurricane Fly
12.  Alphonsin  *  Winter Solstice
13.  The Owl Effect  *  Radio Fiction (Demo Version)
14.  dmyra  *  Reindeer Family
15.  Chris Fordham  *  Yuletide
16.  Eko_Fisk  *  Solstice
17.  Bing Satellites  *  Guess Who?
18.  Antimon  *  Royal Castles of Snow
19.  Sheldon Gava  *  Christmas Again
20.  Tim Kays  *  Coffee with Mr. Kringle
21.  SineRider  *  First Snow
22.  ROGUE SPORE  *  Crystal Conifer
23.  Galactic Kaleidoscope  *  Christmas On Mars
24.  The Akkeshi Bebop Contamination Quintet  *  Ibaraki Christmas
25.  Would-Be Messiahs  *  Shh, 'Tis Wild Aitch (Thinker Nights dub)
26.  Buben  *  2014 Comes
27.  Daniel Prendiville  *  Son Of...
28.  Luciftias  *  Drowning in the Ghosts of Christmas Past
29.  Ade Hodges  *  Klingons off the Starboard Bow
30.  TOTAL E.T.  *  23 Scovt (Cold Space Stretch)
31.  Mr. Tinkoble  *  Mitaxim
32.  midnightradio11  *  Väterchen Frost
33.  Uzbazur & Perceptual Defence  *  Palestine Bells
34.  MagicVan  *  Where Are You?
35.  Magnetic Wind  *  Angels We Have Heard On High
36.  Peter Edwards  *  Ice Drone (extended)


If you're woefully short on inspiration for that special Christmas present for your loved one - well, for shame: you should have given the matter more thought.  Nazgul has no sympathy for such inefficiency!  However, if you've done all the shopping and have room for one more tidbit then why not consider downloading this festive compilation from BFW Recordings, their Christmas Album 2013.  

BFW recordings is an independent net-label based in Manchester, England.  They are purveyors of high quality indie, ambient, shoegaze, post-rock, experimental and electronica from around the world, all available as free downloads. The label original hosted material from Bing Satellites but evolved and exhibits a multitude of artists. "If you're looking for lush soundscapes or glitchy indie, BFW have an impressive release catalogue," cry the online critics, and gadzooks they might just be right.

And Ho! Ho! and thrice Ho! for 'tis the season to be jolly after all, so why not enjoy a festive sing-along with an enthusiastic crowd of BFW artists!?  36 in total, almost certainly something for everyone whether you fancy an alternative rendition of a seasonal classic (Elizabeth Veldon's peculiar piano version of 'The Holly and the Ivy' a case in point) or something a bit more tangential to the festivities ('Ice Drone (extended)' anyone...?).  It's a  cornucopia of Christmas cheer, a flurry of festive fun, a wickedly witty winter wonderland of.... oh sod it, you get the idea I'm sure.

Nazgul's interest was piqued of course by the very first song, a collaboration between When We Live - suppliers of finest Russian experimental ambient - and our man Hugin, or more formally Alexander Wieser in this instance.  Said the man himself of this track, "the guy behind When We Live asked me several times to do a collaboration track with him and this time I said yes because he is a really nice guy and I didn't want to disappoint him.  I added just some guitar sounds to his music but I think it fits well :-)" and if you point your mouse/browser in the right direction you can judge the success of this statement for yourself.

Personally, Nazgul thinks this makes for a perfectly pleasant listen - the gentle strings and synth effects from When We Live sit well with some atmospheric riffs from Hugin.  Nazgul will freely confess to not having heard the entire album from start to finish, but of those songs that I have heard this is certainly one of the best, and definitely one of the most accessible.

BFW themselves promote the download modestly, nothing that "It's that time of year again. Nights are growing darker. There's a chill in the air and turkeys and their vegetarian equivalents are starting to get nervous."  There's certainly a chill in the air around the crumbling walls of Castle Nazgul this month, with seasonal frosts and cold winds starting to chill and shake the shadowy edifice that is home to the Nazgul clan.  Bah - Humbug!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

An interview with ... Odium Records


What's this then, Nazgul?  The clue's in the title: it's an interview with the Odium Record label, run by the accursed-one, Phil Knight
And I care because...?  Odium released one of the very first Uruk Hai demos on CD-r, and as such have their role in the history of all things Hugin

Nazgul has posted a few interviews in the past with labels that have had an involvement in supporting Hugin's various projects.  It's been quite a while since the last one, so as an early Christmas treat here's another for you: Odium Records, of deepest and darkest Wales, whose involvement is interesting as it comes at either end of Hugin's recording history to date.  Back in the year 2000 it was Odium who released on CD-r Uruk Hai's "Elbentanz" demo, and then who later popped out an unofficial CD-r version of Elisabetha's "Isten Szek" to no acclaim whatsoever, and in so doing inadvertently created one of the hardest of Elisabetha's releases to find!  After this small burst of activity the trail went mystifyingly cold, until out of the clear blue sky in 2013 a split CD-r release has surfaced, featuring early tracks by Odium (the band) and Uruk Hai.
 
Armed with such arcane knowledge, an interview with the man behind all of this was therefore one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time, brimful of ale and good cheer as Nazgul was. "Let's get an interview sorted out with Odium Records," thought Lord Nazgul, innocently, "he'll be an interesting character and has had a hand in some of Hugin's musical history..."

And so it was that a carrier raven was dispatched from the ramparts of Castle Nazgul intent on seeking out the almost mythical beast that is Mr Knight, with a small but perfectly formed set of questions designed to shed light upon his involvement with our esteemed Austrian hero.  But inevitably, of course, the answers that were returned were sanity-tearing blasts of blasphemous bile, dredged up from the seventh circle of Hell by Mr Knight and his fiendish horde of fiery pig-buggering imps.  Nazgul should have known better, and even now pauses at the thought of unleashing such demented ravings upon you, honoured reader.

And yet ... the truth must out!  So without any more pause for thought read for yourself the depraved utterances of the Beast of Wales, with his twin-fuelled influences of perversion and alcohol...  

Welcome to Honour and Darkness!  You are known for being both an underground label owner and founding the project Odium, amongst others - how did your involvement in the music business begin?
Hailz and thanks for this opportunity to ramble on about my music. It began many years ago. I lived for metal, the urge to make music was not that strong until I heard Black Metal. From that point on I lived to make metal for the glory of darkness. The record label… who knows how and why...

Is there a philosophy or mission statement behind Odium, the record label?
No, not really. Anything dark, sinister and different I suppose.

The entry for your label on Discogs states "small label based in Wales, now defunct" - is this the case, or are things bubbling under the surface?
In many ways the record label is still going, but I simply have not the time to do the distributing part. All releases are available to those who ask. There are possible plans. I would like to think that from now on it will be 7" releases only.

Running a label sounds like a glamorous lifestyle, but I imagine it's far from it! Can you give us some insight into life in the underground scene?
Running a label properly is up there with running… any business I suppose. Ball achingly dull. Life in the underground? My life in the underground is so underground my girlfriend doesn’t even know fully what I do music wise. My family is clueless as to what I get up to as well as my friends. I don’t discuss idea’s with anyone or share musical tastes with any one I have face to face contact with. Quite sad really.

Is music your sole business activity, or do you make a living in other ways too?
Money from music? Are you mad? Ha! My business is engineering. My job ranges from scientific consulting to research and development. Quite a strange job that changes from day to day.

What's your view of the metal scene in the UK at the moment?
Is there a metal scene in the U.K.? Have I become that detached? Akercocke was awesome. Anaal Knakerath, awesome. Ordog was excellent…

Metal Archives lists your current and former band involvements as Odium, Forest Perversions, October, La Bete, Woods of Desolation, and Emit.  Give us a thumbnail sketch about each of these projects, and any others you have been involved with?
Odium is the main project where I perform all duties. Raw Black Metal that’s progressed through the years. Some would argue that point.

Forest Perversions was a collaboration with H. Morgan, a superb drummer from the solo band Daear. We conjured one demo before she left for England to join severed Heaven.

October. Experimental noise, found sound with unsettling satanic metal undercurrents (I feel I just made October sound more interesting than it actually is).  Odium and October just grew. Odium songs start when I sit behind the pots and pans that make up my drum kit and I bash away for half an hour until a few minutes of usable drums come out. The strings are built around the drums using riffs that I had been playing around with. Nothing is written. October happens when I find noise.

La Bête, inspired by the French horror sex picture of the same name is a project of mine that utilises a drum program. It required a rather inorganic flow and a more structured approach to music than I'm used to.

Woods of Desolation was a collaboration between Darnel and I. He is based in Australia and would compose the drum and guitar parts. I would then finish it off with bass and vocals. This of course would often take months. I'm very busy with various non-musical projects and music can only be made when the time is right. Infuriating for most I would imagine. The demise of our collaboration died with my having to drive a round trip of 120 miles a day for work for 3 years. No time for anything but work. Thank the demon badger that that bollocks is over with and I can give more time to music.

Emit was a one time event. We recorded one session. That was a no go and exists on a tape somewhere and later some horrific drumming over a previous Emit session was performed.


Amongst the Odium label releases are early works by both Uruk Hai (Elbentanz) and Elisabetha (Isten Szek!) - how 'successful' did those releases prove to be?
Uruk Hai went out quite well, though I have no idea of how many copies. I'm not sure what happened with Isten Szek. I'm not sure it was an official release if I'm honest. If I recall I just slapped it on the end of October because of October’s overwhelming potential for disappointment.

You've clearly known Alex/Hugin for many years, do you recall how that relationship formed?
I remember long ago receiving a load of tapes from Beverina Productions as a trade. Within was Uruk Hai’s "Elbenwald". I was initially unimpressed to be honest. This was my first exposure to Uruk Hai. The rest of the story is lost to alcohol. I really have not the slightest clue as to why or how we came in to contact.

Have you followed his career since those early days?  
I have greedily absorbed all his works since then.

What are your impressions of Alex Wieser, the man?
I would like to think of him as a colossal pervert, rampaging his way through desolate mountain settlements, impregnating many young maidens and leaving many bastards in his wake before retiring to his fortress of pure doom and composing songs of his conquests.

Do you have any particular projects or releases of his that you are particularly partial to?
I recently and gratefully received Elisabetha’s ‘Uber das Prinzip…’ - Goat-tastic!

Reverting to yourself, which of your own releases would you point someone towards to get a representative idea of your own music?
I'm not sure any single release is representative, to my diseased ears all are unique. One whole retched evil sack of shit waiting to disease ones mind. But saying that; La Bête's "La Bête", Octobers "Ossuary" and Odium's "Death" and ‘Unholy Deeds On Consecrated Ground‘ would be your best bet.

Are any of your demos/releases available to buy?
I prefer trades. Anyone wanting anything just contact me: odiumrecords@hotmail.com Money is not the reason one make’s Black metal.

I hear a rumour that long-lost Odium and Uruk Hai recordings have now been released....?
It was a planned split. The label at the time was interested until they heard my contribution. The label owner then had massive and unsightly anal leakage, passed out and had his eyes eaten out by a leprous badger. I then released my contribution as Odium ‘Solitude‘. It's nice to see the original plan come to fruition.
 
Through some quirk of fate, you become Prime Minister tomorrow - what law would you want to repeal, and what new law would you want to promote?
Meh. Politics.

I read somewhere online that you once painted your car with matt black "anti-radar" paint?!  Any truth to this story?!
The car needed paint. There was some old metallic paint used on army vehicles available. On it went. Temporary traffic lights failed to see the car. I bet you were hoping for some conspiracy theory reason. Ha! Quite boring I assure you.

Are there any funny tales from life in the underground scene that you'd care to share with Honour and Darkness?  
None that I can recall I'm afraid.

Your house is on fire (no, really, it is...) - what three possessions do you save first?
I would use the girl friend to smother the flames while I hurl possession one out the window, my music collection (I'm cheating). Then I would liberate my guitar from the burning death before throwing as many Star Wars related items out the window (I'm a total Star Wars nerd). Then I would have sexy good times with the crispy body of my still twitching girl friend. All is now good in the world, awash in cum, warm in glow of my burning house, surrounded by my most cherished possessions.

Your 3 books and 3 albums for a desert island would be....?
Darkthrone "Under A Funeral Moon";  Dawnfall "Dominance Of Darkness". The third is a tricky one, early Pyre, maybe Graveland’s "Carpathian Wolves" or Darkthrone’s "Goatlord". Maybe some Kvist or even some early Barathrum...?

Your vote for the best cover art to a demo or album you've ever seen?
I have always liked the cover of Lugubrum’s "Winterstones"

What song would you ban - never to be heard again?
I am a firm believer in no censorship.
 
Just what is the story underpinning the occasional midget references in your emails...?!
Midgets are the spawn of Satan’s unholy fornication. They are to be idolised as such.


Well, you can't say fairer than that!   Why not drop him a line and ask about trading possibilities, or just to share a reverence for midget-related activities? 

Phillip Knight - musician; Legend!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

FEAR OF THE DEEP - update


Band: CEREMONY OF INNOCENCE
Title: Fear Of The Deep
Reason for update: A promotional copy emerges from the murky depths....

This mini-CD from COI was reviewed back in the early days of Honour and Darkness and was released in the early days of the COI project (November 2007, to be precise).  Nazgul's original written piece pretty much said as much as was necessary about this tidy little song, and a review in Heathen Harvest also made for a relevant read.

Not much left to update for this release then, you might imagine.  And you'd be correct if it hadn't been for the small matter of a copy of the thing being advertised for sale online quite recently.  Now, as you'll be aware from stories of yore, Nazgul is prone to buying duplicate copies of Hugin's releases - particularly the rarer ones - on the basis that they provide good trading material and oftentimes Nazgul has the very collector in mind who has been asking after the availability of a particular release.  In this instance, finding one of the limited-to-only-19 copies of "Fear Of The Deep" seemed to be something of a miracle in itself, but when the disc arrived the plot thickened when the issue number was found to be absent, with the lettering "Pr." being written there instead, in red ink.

Clearly a promotional release of the single, then, but how many we actually put out in this way, wondered Nazgul?  According to Hugin, this is very possibly only the one that was issued, which from his recollection was sent for review to ....Heathen Harvest!

And so our update comes full circle (well, sort of).  This unique promotional version is now winging its way across the globe as a gift to a good friend for Christmas, and is one of the few items of such rarity to escape the gravitational pull of Castle Nazgul.  It's always worth enquiring what other oddities Nazgul has lurking around the Castle for sale or trade - only the other day a tape plus CDr copy of the "s.t.r.a.n.g.e." release came into my possession, and that's as rare as hen's teeth to find as you'll know.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

AS WE HIDE THE MOON

Band: EISMOND
Tile: As We Hide The Moon
Format: 6-panel digipak on the Kristallblut Records label (Germany), catalogue reference KBR006, released in 2013.  The full-colour panels contain the lyrics for the songs.
Edition: Limited to 500 unnumbered copies 

Track listing:
01. The Wind that Shakes the Grass  20:30
02. The Name of the Wind  12:16                                              
03. Stepping Beyond  22:55
04. The Gilded Mountain  16:16

There is something large, grey and wrinkled in Castle Nazgul.  It sits in the corner of the library and glowers balefully across the floor at Nazgul as he taps away on his ancient typewriter (that's Nazgul tapping away, not our grey friend!)  Let me introduce you to 'the elephant in the room', a recent visitor whose arrival coincided with this review for Eismond's latest offering.

You see, many of the issues that were discussed in the recent review of Uruk Hai's new album "...And All The Magic & Might He Brought" could equally be said to apply to Eismond's latest offering, "As We Hide The Moon".  New personnel in the band?  Check.  New instruments in the mix, specifically guitar?  Check.  Use of lyrics and clean vocals where previously instrumentals reigned?  Check and mate.  

So what, you might very well ask, is Nazgul likely to do in this review: some form of 'brutal' hatchet-job, or something potentially hypocritical in treating this similarly evolved release with different criteria from that against which Uruk Hai was judged?  Time to shift that elephant, methinks, before he finishes the Castle peanut supplies...

First things first, though: what does the Kristallblut label have to say about this release?  They say this:

"Now, with their new line-up, they are ready to release their debut album "As We Hide the Moon" in the beginning of 2013 again on Kristallblut Records. Eismond play ambient space black metal. Deep soundscapes, filled with hypnotic guitars and drums, take the listener to a cosmical journey to the stars. Emotional deep music for fans of Elffor, Summoning, Paysage d´Hiver, Lustre, and Sieghetnar."

And that's actually quite a timely reminder, as the previous Eismond review here on Honour and Darkness featured the reissue of their first tape demo "Demo 1/2010" into CD format, which was re-titled on route as "Behind The Moon We Are Looking Into The Distance".  Technically, therefore, "As We Hide The Moon" is the first release proper by the project, and so presumably sets the musical template for those to follow.

Second things second: who exactly is this new member?  Step forward Jaron (vocals and guitars) to complement Hugin on keys, programming, and guitars. Jaron is in fact Jaron Evil (aka Vultyrous) of Archspire, Funeral Fornication, Ringbearer, and Almuric renown.  We've come across Funeral Fornication before with their split album with Uruk Hai, and a future split release between Uruk Hai and Ringbearer is apparently in the pipeline too.

Before Nazgul's own thoughts, what does the media at large make of this very nicely presented digipak?  Well, the internet is not exactly awash with reviews, but two stand out as having something of interest to say.  The first comes courtesy of Dimiarch of Metal Soundscapes      

"Austrian atmospheric space ambient blackened metal band Eismond has finally released its debut full-length album "As We Hide the Moon". The band was formed in 2010 by Alex Wieser, who is also behind many other mostly ambient related projects, like Uruk-Hai, Hrossharsgrani, Elisabetha, Bonemachine, Hrefnesholt, Wach, Manwë and others. After some demos as a solo project, Jaron joined the band in guitars and vocals (the project was mostly instrumental before) and Eismond released their first album in 2013 via the German label Kristallblut Records, who also re-released their first demo re-mastered with bonus tracks.

Eismond’s music was always inspired by the mystery and beauty of outer space and the secrets hidden in other worlds, with a preference in our planet’s satellite, Moon. Their music is down tempo, with atmospheric synths, a few distorted background guitars and various experimental sound samples, giving you the impression that everything moves slowly, floating in zero gravity. There are 4 very long compositions, each one over 12 minutes (2 of them are actually over 20 minutes) and the whole album lasts for 72 minutes. The presence of lead melodic guitars and solos in some selected parts adds a very warm touch in the songs. This time there are a few whispers and some clean male vocals, enriching even more their sound, but it’s true that the album still gives the impression of an instrumental work. 


I’d like to comment the wonderful melodic vocal parts in the first song 'The Wind that Shakes the Grass', which are really epic! The closing track 'The Gilded Mountain' is their most heavy song so far, with more distorted guitars and a few screaming vocals. "As We Hide the Moon" moves in the footsteps of the demo album, but is more solid, interesting and well produced.

Fans of ambient space atmospheric music could find Eismond a very interesting experiment. Their somehow 'blackened' atmosphere could also attract a metal audience and of course all those who like Alex's other projects, since there are some common elements with most of them. "As We Hide the Moon" is released by Kristallblut Records in deluxe 6-panel digipak with all the lyrics and beautiful artwork of alien ice-covered rocky landscapes. You can visit their official profile for more info and sound samples."


Meanwhile, in Fatal Underground ...

"...their debut album is described by them as Ambient Atmospheric Black Metal Experimental. Broadly speaking one can agree, although the Black Metal portion is little more than a low level default. Created here is an almost continuous very gentle, atmospheric sound world, which has a hint of psychedelia . Some people near me draw comparisons to " Pink Floyd.  I'll place special emphasis on the guitar work, which presents itself in different variations: at times the riffs seem very cold, sometimes slightly distorted and sometimes even really aggressive (and it's here where perhaps the best stab at Black Metal can be seen). On the other hand, sometimes the guitar elicits almost 'warm' tones.  Other parts create an enormously atmospheric ambience. The drum sound is tasteful and adheres rather profoundly to make an extremely important contribution to the building of songs in this huge atmosphere.  

The sound consistently ranges around and very occasionally you will sometimes roused by harder or louder passages. A super, brilliant disc!  Assuming you like on this kind of music it can absolutely relax you and take you into a world apart from the everyday . Simply beautiful and super relaxing!"

And where does that leave Nazgul and his visiting elephant?  In a healthy state of mind, to be honest.  A change in personnel so early in the project's life really just sets them down what appears to be a very palatable path, and the added soft vocals of Jaron enhance the songs immensely.  The fact you can follow along with the lyrics printed on the panels of the digipak is handy too.  It is a very relaxing experience, and one that should be a compulsory part of NASA astronaut training to familiarise them with immense spaces.  Rather than being a strange and semi-intrusive change to the project's direction, it comes at a timely juncture and is executed really well. 

Good to see a significant label like Kristallblut getting involved in the release too, which should raise the profile of the band and allow for better distribution and sales than even some of Hugin's more established projects are used to.  It beggars the question as to how the completely awesome Drachenfeuer release "The Realm Of The Light" still hasn't seen a major label release though: it's a funny old world.

The artwork on this diogipak leaves one in no doubt of its outer space leanings, and indeed the inclusion of flying saucers reminds us of some of the strange types that live in the cold and desolate Alpine regions (anybody remember the bizarre tale of one-armed Billy Meier, of Bülach, Switzerland?)  Whether this music is the content of choice on the CD players of beam-ships from the DAL Universe is yet to be established, although they could do far worse to make the crushing bore of intergalactic travel less onerous....